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    Injustice 2

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    I picked you up and put you back on solid ground

    Injustice: Gods Among Us was a great fighting game that used DC’s roster of superheroes to provide not only engaging gameplay, but an engrossing story as well. Considering the praise heaped upon Gods Among Us, hype was high for Injustice 2, and as it turns out, the game delivers an even more compelling fighting game experience, and stands as one of the most fully-featured titles the genre has ever seen.

    Injustice 2’s story picks up where Gods Among Us left off, and takes place entirely in the "alternate" DC universe where Superman is a villain. This time around, Batman has to consider teaming with Superman to take out a new league of supervillains that are forming to serve the invading Brainiac and his minions. The plot drags a bit in places, but for the most part the story is interesting and well-acted, even if it just feels like an excuse to get characters to fight in random locations at times. There are a couple of different endings for players to pursue and some minor branching story paths, though don’t expect the plot to change all that much based on player choice.

    One complaint I had about the first game was that its story cut-scenes were ugly, to the point that it was distracting. Thanks to the beefed-up power of the new-gen consoles, Injustice 2 looks great all-around, with gorgeous cut-scenes and in-game visuals that blend together. It’s easily one of the best-looking fighting games ever produced, and could very well be the most visually impressive fighting game made to date.

    This is apparent not only with its beautifully rendered character models and animations, but with its smart stage design as well. Stages aren’t too busy, yet the environment still feels like a significant part of the battle. Experienced players will be able to use the quirks of each stage to their advantage, with different characters able to utilize different parts of the stage in unique ways.

    There’s a nice variety of stages pulled from all corners of the DC Universe, so players will never get bored from playing on the same stages repeatedly. Some stages even have alternate versions that are accessible through visually pleasing and brutal level transitions. The quality of these stages and the fighters on the roster are what drive Injustice 2 to being a great game, but it’s also a great game because of the sheer amount of things to do.

    The story mode is undoubtedly a draw, even for those that normally wouldn’t bother with a fighting game. Beyond that, though, players will find endless hours of entertainment. They can duke it out with friends or random opponents online through the game’s various multiplayer modes, which includes ranked matches, King of the Hill tournaments, and much more. There are also AI based fights where players can grind for loot boxes and XP by battling it out with customized teams of real world players around the world, as well as special events that are constantly changing and provide players their best chances at earning extra loot.

    These special events and different modes are fun because they are well-designed and all revolve around the game’s core fighting gameplay. The reward for participating in these modes is loot, but the loot system is not really why people will keep playing Injustice 2. People will keep playing the game because the fighting mechanics are fun and well-designed. The loot system, meanwhile, just feels weird and forced. Loot boxes contain cosmetic items that provide stat-boosting effects, which are active in some of the game modes. The loot box system is a little frustrating in that players can’t get 100% of the achievements without happening upon one of the required items that is hidden in a loot box, and players can’t use in-game currency to buy the diamond or platinum level loot boxes. There are ways players can grind for loot boxes and make this somewhat less of a problem, but their inclusion still feels off and their execution is predatory in nature.

    Microtransactions are an increasingly annoying problem in the game industry, and unfortunately, Injustice 2’s use of them is predatory in other ways as well. Each character can level up to 20, and it would take a ridiculous number of hours to level everyone up. Alternatively, those with cash to burn can just spend real world money and level up everyone on their roster that way. In some online game modes, level and item stats are taken into account, meaning that Injustice 2 is potentially a pay-to-win game in some cases.

    To make matters worse, Injustice 2 features microtransactions on top of charging players for the base game as well as DLC. Microtransactions and loot boxes are more easily forgivable in games like Overwatch where players are given free DLC, but Injustice 2 makes players pay for new fighters as well. That being said, Injustice 2’s DLC characters are actually quite impressive, with characters like Hellboy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles joining the fray.

    No matter how cool it is to beat up the Justice League as the Ninja Turtles, though, the fact that DLC characters require players to purchase them with real world money ties back to the game’s pay-to-win philosophy. Some of the DLC characters, most notably The Atom, seem overpowered and unbalanced compared to the rest of the roster. This puts players that only buy the Injustice 2 base game at a severe disadvantage when compared to those that shell out the extra cash for the DLC.

    Hopefully NetherRealm addresses these balancing issues in future updates. So far, the company does seem like it has provided Injustice 2 with plenty of post-launch support, and has put in the work to make sure the online multiplayer experience is fine-tuned. Players will encounter minimal lagging or other technical issues online, which is something that can’t be said for a lot of fighting games on the market, unfortunately.

    NetherRealm’s post-launch support is apparent beyond the standard upkeep it does on the game, though. As stated previously, players are constantly challenged by new events that will keep them engaged with the game on a long-term basis. These events are found in the Multiverse, which ties in to the first game’s plot of featuring DC characters from different universes. The Multiverse features unique conditions and will challenge players to maybe try out fighters they wouldn’t bother with otherwise, and that combined with the fact that it gives out more loot boxes than any other game mode means that serious Injustice 2 players will be spending a lot of time with the mode.

    Between the Multiverse, the other single player modes, and the wealth of multiplayer content (both online and off), Injustice 2 is easily one of the meatiest fighting games on the market. Completing it fully is a daunting task, and will require players to dedicate an absurd number of hours to mastering the game. Luckily the game never really becomes boring, and since the roster of fighters is so varied, players can keep having unique experiences with the game.

    Injustice 2 is almost the perfect fighting game. Unfortunately, its predatory microtransactions keep it from reaching its true potential. Even with these microtransactions in place, though, Injustice 2 will still offer more bang for your buck than any other fighting game currently available, and it should leave fans plenty excited to see what NetherRealm has up its sleeve for its next fighting game, whatever it may be.

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